The Neogene volcanic region of Cabo de Gata, Almería, SE Spain, is dotted with many outcrops of bentonite, some of them of significant economic interest. The bentonites have their origin in the hydrothermal alteration of pyroclastic rocks (15–7 Ma). The deposits are usually associated with fractures. The major mineral is a dioctahedral Fe- and Mg-smectite (89–75%) and this is accompanied by minor amounts of feldspars, quartz, amphiboles, pyroxenes, biotite, zeolites, disordered tridymite, calcite, etc. This paper describes the geological background, the general characteristics of the bentonites and major aspects of their formation, e.g. type of low-temperature hydrothermal solutions, mass balance, chemical evolutions of the smectites and geochemistry of trace elements. Finally, the characteristics of three of the most important deposits are described.

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